Beyond the binaries to self-fashioning: identity as the rhetoric of social style

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Greene, Carlnita Peterson

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This dissertation explores how identity functions as a “site of struggle” in contemporary postmodern society. Although there has been research on identity, scholars mainly have viewed it from standpoints that argue in favor of or against “identity politics.” Contrary to these perspectives, this dissertation suggests that we need to reassess its political potential and evaluate why politics remains vital to discussions of identity. It proposes that one of the best ways to consider identity under these postmodern conditions it to view it as both a communicative and rhetorical practice that is manifested within social style. Specifically, it examines how our contemporary identities are intrinsically linked to the social styles that we have or how we represent ourselves using social styles. Utilizing the method of rhetorical homology, it analyzes two case studies—the transgender text of Buck Angel and a comparison of two prominent political families, the Kennedys and the Bushes, to demonstrate how identity functions as a form of social style with political and social implications. Thus, this dissertation explains how identity is inherently communicative and rhetorical, and especially in postmodern conditions, social style seems to be where identity is created, managed, and struggled over.